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Most educated county in every state

  • Most educated county in every state

    The American philosopher and psychologist John Dewey once said, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” Dewey advocated for an educational paradigm called pragmatism, which stresses the importance of learning academic concepts by experiencing them firsthand, instead of through lecture and repetition in a classroom. While this is still a philosophy used by many educators, especially those working in fields where the value of work experience exceeds the value placed on an academic background, many people take a great deal of pride in their formal educational credentials, not only because of the many valuable skills these educations have provided them with, but also because of the immense amount of work that went into earning their particular degrees.

    To look at areas in each state that have achieved the highest levels of educational attainment, Stacker used data from the 2014–2018 American Community Survey to construct a weighted index that measures the relative education level for every county in the United States. This index evaluates each county's over-25 population across seven educational tiers, ranging from individuals not educated past 8th grade to those with graduate or professional degrees. For each segment of these tiers; a points-based indexing system was applied in direct proportion to the estimated years of schooling for each level of educational attainment. Lastly, the full range of index scores was normalized to a 0 to 100 scale, with 100 representing the most educated county in the United States.

    The county in each state with the highest weighted index is included. Read on to see where people in each state go to school the longest on average, and about various factors, ranging from flagship state schools to specific teaching methods to robust tax bases that may have influenced the county’s high academic achievements, and kept its students in school so long.

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  • Alabama: Shelby County

    - Education index score: 87.43
    - Highest level of education attained by county residents:
    --- Less than high school: 2.5%
    --- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 5.4%
    --- High school graduate or equivalent: 20.3%
    --- Some college, no degree: 22.3%
    --- Associate's degree: 7.4%
    --- Bachelor's degree: 27.9%
    --- Graduate or professional degree: 14.2%
    - Rank among all counties: #156 out of 3,142

    Shelby County outperforms the rest of Alabama educationally, with several interesting corollary demographic differences of note. The county’s median household income is $69,379, compared to $43,160 for the rest of the state, and the poverty rate is only 7.7%, compared to 18.1% for the rest of the state. The relationship between income and educational attainment and outcome has been well documented, which may in part explain Shelby County’s high educational marks relative to the rest of the state.

  • Alaska: Denali Borough

    - Education index score: 88.71
    - Highest level of education attained by county residents:
    --- Less than high school: 0.4%
    --- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 1.1%
    --- High school graduate or equivalent: 26.1%
    --- Some college, no degree: 22.2%
    --- Associate's degree: 6.6%
    --- Bachelor's degree: 28.8%
    --- Graduate or professional degree: 14.7%
    - Rank among all counties: #93 out of 3,142

    The Denali Borough School county has a long track record of investing in its students’ education, including keeping up with innovative technology. Back in 2003, the county became the first in Alaska to provide every student in ninth through 12th grade with a laptop computer, setting them up early in the internet age for a lifelong fluency with computers that has proved prescient in the years since.

  • Arizona: Coconino County

    - Education index score: 85.57
    - Highest level of education attained by county residents:
    --- Less than high school: 4.1%
    --- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 6.2%
    --- High school graduate or equivalent: 21.4%
    --- Some college, no degree: 23.6%
    --- Associate's degree: 9.0%
    --- Bachelor's degree: 21.1%
    --- Graduate or professional degree: 14.5%
    - Rank among all counties: #295 out of 3,142

    Coconino County has invested heavily in education for all of its residents. In the past decade, the county has invested in pre-kindergarten preparatory programs, increased access to digital technology in rural areas, and created a transition school for students recently released from juvenile detention.

    [Pictured: View from Lowell Observatory 2 at Northern Arizona University in Coconino County, Arizona.]

  • Arkansas: Pulaski County

    - Education index score: 85.08
    - Highest level of education attained by county residents:
    --- Less than high school: 3.4%
    --- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 6.2%
    --- High school graduate or equivalent: 26.2%
    --- Some college, no degree: 23.4%
    --- Associate's degree: 6.8%
    --- Bachelor's degree: 20.9%
    --- Graduate or professional degree: 13.2%
    - Rank among all counties: #354 out of 3,142

    Pulaski County schools have come a long way in recent years. As recently as 2013, the county’s schools were under state control due to a severe shortage of funds. In 2016, the county regained control back from the state, and its schools are now outperforming those in the rest of the state at the elementary and high school levels, which is particularly noteworthy given the fact that the county students deemed to be at higher risk for suboptimal education levels than the rest of the state. The county attributes this in part to its focus on growth versus raw test results, measuring how much students improve themselves year to year, rather than how they stack up against others.

  • California: Marin County

    - Education index score: 92.50
    - Highest level of education attained by county residents:
    --- Less than high school: 3.9%
    --- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 2.9%
    --- High school graduate or equivalent: 10.9%
    --- Some college, no degree: 17%
    --- Associate's degree: 6.5%
    --- Bachelor's degree: 33.2%
    --- Graduate or professional degree: 25.6%
    - Rank among all counties: #16 out of 3,142

    One of the most notable achievements of Marin County’s education policy in recent years has been the development of a public-private partnership between the county and local organizations. In 2019, the Marin County Board of Supervisors offered $100,000 in matching funds raised by the Marin Promise Partnership to provide equal educational opportunity and access across the board in the county, closing the achievement gap between the county’s least fiscally advantaged students and the wealthiest.

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  • Colorado: Boulder County

    - Education index score: 93.68
    - Highest level of education attained by county residents:
    --- Less than high school: 2%
    --- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 3%
    --- High school graduate or equivalent: 12.3%
    --- Some college, no degree: 15.8%
    --- Associate's degree: 6.2%
    --- Bachelor's degree: 33.1%
    --- Graduate or professional degree: 27.7%
    - Rank among all counties: #6 out of 3,142

    Boulder County schools have the benefit of a robust private network of supporters. The county’s Education Impact nonprofit supports a wide array of programs and projects every year to improve equity, promote innovation, and support excellence. Initiatives range from supply drives to business leadership programs.

  • Connecticut: Fairfield County

    - Education index score: 88.31
    - Highest level of education attained by county residents:
    --- Less than high school: 5.3%
    --- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 4.8%
    --- High school graduate or equivalent: 21.7%
    --- Some college, no degree: 14.7%
    --- Associate's degree: 6.2%
    --- Bachelor's degree: 26.4%
    --- Graduate or professional degree: 20.9%
    - Rank among all counties: #111 out of 3,142

    Fairfield County may have high educational outcomes, but such success hasn’t always been under the letter of the law. As recently as 2014, the county was found to have violated a state law requiring schools in each county to be at least as diverse as the county itself. Fairfield was one of four counties found not to have complied with this requirement.

  • Delaware: New Castle County

    - Education index score: 85.62
    - Highest level of education attained by county residents:
    --- Less than high school: 3%
    --- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 5.6%
    --- High school graduate or equivalent: 30.6%
    --- Some college, no degree: 18%
    --- Associate's degree: 7%
    --- Bachelor's degree: 20.8%
    --- Graduate or professional degree: 15.1%
    - Rank among all counties: #290 out of 3,142

    New Castle County may count as the most educated county in the state, but some students in the county still struggle to achieve these high educational marks. The state legislature has been weighing a recountying proposal since 2015 to better serve high-risk students in the state by shifting money to higher-risk schools. The proposal failed in 2016 and has been suggested again in 2019.

  • Florida: Leon County

    - Education index score: 89.28
    - Highest level of education attained by county residents:
    --- Less than high school: 2.1%
    --- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 4.2%
    --- High school graduate or equivalent: 19.1%
    --- Some college, no degree: 19.2%
    --- Associate's degree: 9.6%
    --- Bachelor's degree: 25.8%
    --- Graduate or professional degree: 19.9%
    - Rank among all counties: #77 out of 3,142

    It’s hard for students to learn and teachers to teach when concerned about their safety, and after the school shootings in Parkland, Florida. in 2018, Leon County sprung into action to help students and teachers feel safe so they could focus on learning. A state-of-the-art security system allows safety and security officers to monitor schools and buses at all times and even has an app with a panic button for teachers to push if the need should ever tragically arise.

  • Georgia: Oconee County

    - Education index score: 91.25
    - Highest level of education attained by county residents:
    --- Less than high school: 1.4%
    --- 9th to 12th grade, no diploma: 4.1%
    --- High school graduate or equivalent: 19.6%
    --- Some college, no degree: 15.8%
    --- Associate's degree: 7.9%
    --- Bachelor's degree: 24.2%
    --- Graduate or professional degree: 26.9%
    - Rank among all counties: #33 out of 3,142

    Oconee County invests heavily in its education and education policy. The county’s budget for 2020 includes a pay raise for all of its employees, investments in safety and security, and additional staff to support students in key areas, including special education and technology.

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